May 23 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Brett McKeehan, Rob Picheta, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 8:36 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020
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9:40 a.m. ET, May 23, 2020

New York governor signs executive order allowing 10 people or less to gather in time for Memorial Day

From CNN's Sheena Jones

People practice social distancing at Madison Square Park in New York on May 22.
People practice social distancing at Madison Square Park in New York on May 22. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to allow 10 people or less to gather as long as they are practicing social distancing protocols, according to an order on the governor’s website.

The order was signed, Friday, in time for the Memorial Day holiday.  

The full order can be read here.

3:59 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Foreign tourism and La Liga to resume in Spain

From CNN's Laura Pérez Maestro and Helena de Moura  

People relax on a beach in Barcelona on May 20.
People relax on a beach in Barcelona on May 20. Joan Valls/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced during a news conference Saturday that "starting in July, we will reactivate the entry of foreign tourism under safe conditions. As of now, foreign tourists can begin to plan their vacation in our country."

Sanchez announced that “there will be a tourist season this year” and invited all establishments in Spain to get ready to receive national clients at the end of June and foreigners in July.

“I encourage Spaniards to start planning their holidays now and take advantage of the wonders that our country has to offer," he said. "Spain needs tourism, and tourism needs security. Safety at origin and safety at destination. That is why we will guarantee that tourists will not run any risks and that they will not bring risks to our country either."

Sports to return: Sanchez also said “La Liga will return from the week of June 8."

Sanchez explained that "of course, the ball will roll again under conditions that guarantee maximum health safety for all participants in the competition. Spanish football, we all know, has a massive following in and out of our borders. But it will not be the only recreational activity that we will recover in the coming weeks: museums, cinemas, concerts, theaters and all sports activities will gradually restart."

3:59 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Navajo Nation reports 149 total coronavirus-related deaths 

From CNN's Alta Spells

There were 95 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the Navajo Nation as of Friday, the nation reported in a news release.

The new cases bring the total number of positive cases to 4,529. A total of 149 deaths were reported Friday. 

Some context: The updates came as the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, went into another 57-hour weekend lock down. During the lockdown, all residents are required to remain at home, with the exception of essential workers, first responders and health care workers. 

“The Navajo Nation is testing our citizens at a very high rate per capita, more so than any state in the country. Over 14% of the people living on the Navajo Nation have been tested and that’s why we have a high number of positive cases. We’re doing our best to flatten the curve, so let’s think of the health and safety of others and stay home this weekend. Stay home, stay safe, save lives,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
4:08 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

UK prime minister's senior adviser says he "behaved reasonably and legally"

From Simon Cullen

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings says he “behaved reasonably and legally” when he travelled from London to Durham during the quarantine lockdown in March.

Cummings is accused of breaching the coronavirus restrictions by making the journey while showing symptoms of the virus.

Speaking outside his home in London, Cummings told journalists to move back to abide by social distancing rules.

Responding to a question about it not being a "good look" for the prime minister’s adviser to travel to Durham, Cummings replied: “Who cares about good looks. It’s a question about doing the right thing – not what you guys (journalists) think."

8:23 a.m. ET, May 23, 2020

It's just past 1 p.m. in London and 8 p.m. in Hong Kong. Here's what you need to know

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

It's not just that hydroxychloroquine doesn't help Covid-19 patients. The drug makes them sicker.

A comprehensive study published yesterday in the medical journal The Lancet found that seriously ill Covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine were more likely to die or develop irregular heart rhythms.

"Our data has very convincingly shown that across the world in a real-world population that this drug combination, whichever way you slice it or dice it, does not show any evidence of benefit, and in fact is immutably showing a signal of grave harm," said Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the study's lead author.

It's not the first study to highlight the potentially harmful effects of the medication, but it is by far the largest. It analyzed data from more than 96,000 patients across six continents.

The study comes just days after US President Donald Trump revealed that he has been taking the medication himself, despite the Food and Drug Administration's stark 1,000-word warning about the risks.

Today's other developments

Latin America is the new hot spot: Brazil reported more than 20,000 cases yesterday in the previous 24 hours, as hospitals struggle to cope. President Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the threat, saying quarantines and lockdowns could have a worse impact on his country's battered economy.

In Peru, the government announced it was extending its state of emergency until the end of June. The Andean country has the second-highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Latin America after Brazil. In Mexico, health officials announced the highest single-day surge in deaths.

80 million babies at risk: The WHO warns that 80 million babies worldwide could be at risk of preventable diseases like measles and polio because of missed vaccinations. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted immunization programs in at least 68 countries.

Apples and oranges: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged yesterday it had combined results from viral and antibody coronavirus tests on its website.

Experts say this is unhelpful and potentially misleading, because antibody tests aren't used to diagnose current infections or determine whether someone is potentially contagious. Instead, they indicate whether someone has been exposed to the virus in the past.

Information wars: Fighting misinformation is just as important as fighting the virus itself, says Dr. Mike Ryan of the WHO's Health Emergencies Program. Ryan says the WHO has invested heavily in myth-busting videos, infographics and cartoons.

Coronavirus conspiracy theories have spread rapidly on social media. But researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have discovered that nearly half the accounts propagating the Covid-19 conversations on Twitter could be automated bots.

Africa tops 100,000 cases: The coronavirus has spread to every country on the continent. But Africa's mortality rate is low compared to other parts of the world. Its young population might explain the low numbers. The WHO points to another possible explanation: Many governments there were quick to impose confinement measures, which helped slow the spread.

But lockdowns have spurred other hardships. In Ghana, bodies have piled up in morgues since a ban on public gatherings. Many families have opted to store corpses in morgues for longer than usual, until they can hold a traditional funeral with many mourners, Zaina Adamu reports

A version of this story appeared in the May 23 edition of CNN's Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

4:06 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

British ministers defend embattled aide -- but police condemn his reported lockdown breach

From CNN's Rob Picheta and Simon Cullen

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Senior ministers in Boris Johnson's government have rallied behind a top aide after it was reported he breached the country's coronavirus lockdown.

Dominic Cummings traveled across England to stay at his family's home while suffering from coronavirus symptoms, it has emerged.

His decision to travel out of London was “most unwise,” the acting Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Steve White said on Saturday.

“Given the whole ethos of the guidance and regulations issued from the Government was to reduce the spread, regardless of reason, by traveling to County Durham when known to be infected was most unwise,” he said in a statement.

“To beat this crisis we need to be selfless as millions have been. The response by the people of County Durham and Darlington have been exemplary, which makes this most frustrating and concerning.

“Incidents such as this do not help, and I can appreciate that the longer this goes on the harder it gets.”

Cummings made the trip despite Johnson urging people to stay at home and banning people from visiting family members. The UK's self-isolation guidelines also state people with symptoms must not leave their home.

But Downing Street has nonetheless insisted that the aide did not breach lockdown guidelines, and a number of senior members of Johnson's Cabinet leapt to his defense on Saturday.

“Caring for your wife and child is not a crime," Michael Gove tweeted.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: “It’s reasonable and fair to ask for an explanation on this. And it has been provided: two parents with Coronavirus, were anxiously taking care of their young child. Those now seeking to politicise it should take a long hard look in the mirror.”

“Taking care of your wife and young child is justifiable and reasonable, trying to score political points over it isn’t," Chancellor Rishi Sunak added.

Pressure is nonetheless mounting on Johnson to sack Cummings. Days before he made the tip, the Prime Minister sent the UK into lockdown and gave the public "a very simple instruction -- you must stay at home."

"The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings," the Labour Party said in a statement.

The leaders of the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats meanwhile called on Cummings, who played a senior role in the pro-Brexit campaign in 2016 and joined Boris Johnson in Downing Street last year, to resign or be sacked.

3:58 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Religious ceremonies allowed to resume in France

From CNN's Barbara Wojazer in Paris

Religious ceremonies and gathering are allowed to immediately resume in France, according to a legislative decree published on Saturday morning.

The Interior Ministry and faith representatives “have worked together to ensure that religious ceremonies resume, while ensuring the health protection of all,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a statement on Friday night. 

Mandatory health measures include wearing face masks during ceremonies and hand sanitization at the entrance, according to the Ministry. 

The French Council for the Muslim Faith announced on Friday that Eid al-Fitr celebrations would occur on Sunday, May 24, but that “given the pandemic, Eid prayer cannot be held in Mosques.”

The Bishop’s Conference of France welcomed the decision in a press release on Saturday morning, adding that each priest and their teams would be responsible for choosing which churches would be allowed to host ceremonies and the number of people allowed in.

French places of worship were never closed during the crisis, but restrictions were imposed on religious celebrations, the Interior Ministry said in the statement.

This decision was expected after the State Council, one of France’s highest jurisdictions, had ordered the government to lift the ban on religious gatherings.

4:06 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Downing Street denies top aide broke lockdown restrictions by traveling across England with symptoms

From CNN's Luke McGee and Rob Picheta

Dominic Cummings (left) and Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street in November 2019.
Dominic Cummings (left) and Boris Johnson leave 10 Downing Street in November 2019.

The British Prime Minister’s office has denied that top adviser Dominic Cummings breached coronavirus guidelines, after it emerged he traveled across England to stay at his parents' home while showing symptoms of coronavirus.

“At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported,” a spokesperson told CNN on Saturday. “His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr. Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”

The spokesman claimed that Cummings went to a house close but separate to his family’s in northern England, in case help was needed. 

Boris Johnson is under pressure to sack Cummings after it was reported by The Guardian and The Daily Mirror that he and his wife made the trip while showing Covid-19 symptoms.

Around a week before the trip, Johnson sent the UK into lockdown and banned people from visiting other households.

"From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction -- you must stay at home," he said in his March 23 address to the nation. "You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home."

The government's guidance on self-isolating also makes clear that people should stay at home if they have symptoms of the virus, and encourages people with children to do their best to stick to the guidance.

But the government spokesperson added: “Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for.

“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside," the spokesperson added.

3:57 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Cases mount in Russia, as concerns grow over safety of health workers

From CNN's Nathan Hodge and Mary Ilyushina

Russia reported 9,434 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, as questions continue to be raised about the safety of frontline workers and the country's official Covid-19 figures.

Russia now officially has 335,882 cases of Covid-19, making it the country with the second-highest number of confirmed cases. It has recorded 3,388 deaths attributed to the virus.

But there have been suggestions that even those numbers understate the true scale of the country's outbreak.

In an Instagram Live interview Sunday with a local journalist, the head of Dagestan's ministry of health gave figures far higher than Moscow's, saying the total number of people infected with coronavirus and community-acquired pneumonia in the southern Russian republic exceeded 13,000, with 657 dead.

Asked by journalist Ruslan Kurbanov to explain why Covid-19 and pneumonia cases were being counted separately, the health official, Dzhamaludin Gadzhiibragimov, responded that pneumonia patients are treated as if they have the virus, but not all cases are ascribed to coronavirus due to a lack of testing.

"Basically, the same [treatment] methodology is used for both," he said. "But because we do not have lab test confirmation, the statistics are being compiled in that way."

Doctors in the region have complained in the past weeks on social media about the lack of protective equipment, and some hospitals have not had space to treat their staff. A video of nurses hooked up to intravenous drips in a storage room in the city of Derbent went viral in early May.